PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Interventions and Counternomic Reasoning

Counternomics—counterfactual conditionals whose antecedents run contrary to the laws of nature—and counternomic reasoning are indispensable to many areas of scientific discourse. They appear in discussions of false theories in the history of science, as parts of scientific explanations, in idealized models, and many other places. However, they have enjoyed very little philosophical discussion. This paper aims to remedy this. I focus on characterizing how we reason counternomically, paying special attention to how certain experimental observations support our reasoning about counternomic circumstances. I give two examples of the kind of experimental case I’m interested in, respond to a rough-and-ready characterization of how they afford our counternomic reasoning, and finish with my own account. I characterize our counternomic reasoning in these cases as involving a kind of abstraction from the causal information provided by experimental manipulation.

Author Information:

Peter Tan    
University of Virginia


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